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24

chapter 4

DATA AVAILABILITY

Tracking eco-efficiency performance should wherever possible be based on information that is already available in the business or can be acquir ed at a reasonable cost relative to its value for users. Some information must be estimated because it is not practical to obtain actual measurements (e.g. GHG emissions associated with purchased electricity). But most of the infor mation needed to develop the recommended indicators for product/service value and creation (except the function delivered aspect) can generally be obtained fr om the following mainstream business information sources:

production reports

cost reports

annual financial reports

material safety data sheets

environmental reports (internal management and external regulatory)

Despite this availability it may not be easy to compile the infor mation needed to track eco-efficiency performance. Most mainstream business systems are not set up to generate this kind of information for the enterprise as a whole. The information is typically tracked and managed at a facility, process or

sub-process level.

In some cases data may not be disaggregated sufficiently to identify the numbers needed for indicators with specific products or processes. For example, shared resources are not always allocated by process or end- product, especially at integrated,

multi-product facilities. Also, recycled

or reused materials may not easily be allocated back to a specific pr ocess. Nor can their “historic” environmental burdens be easily quantified.

In the absence of the kind of well- developed codification available for financial information, companies may

also need to grapple with pr oblems of definition. This is especially the case for international companies, where there may be differences in definition or presentation from country to country,

including units of measure. But it is also true that definitions of common ter ms (e.g. solid waste and hazardous waste) can be different from state to state as well as between sectors.

Information needed to develop the indicators for the product/service use category is often particularly difficult to obtain because it relates to the specific way in which products are used. Such information may be available internally as a part of business plans, but may not

necessarily be available in mainstream business information sources such as financial and cost reports. Such information is highly product specific and cannot be meaningfully aggregated across different products.

Each business needs to develop an enterprise level information system that addresses these challenges in collecting ,

managing, analyzing and reporting

data. The basis for information (measurements or estimates &

methodology) and terminology used needs to be documented in r eports. As far as possible, the terminology and

definitions used should be those presented in chapter 3, but ther e are

some genuine differences from country to country (e.g. regulatory differences in the definition of hazardous waste).

pilot learning: a journey

Pilot companies found that “building a sound system of per formance evaluation and reporting is a journey” and normally needs a corporation’s efforts over several years.

One company proposed that implementing a sound system should comprise the following four steps:

1 select business specific indicators meaningful to the business

2 implement new data systems on these indicators

3 select the indicators to be used for external reporting

4 establish corporate goals

SENSITIVITY AND ERROR

It is important to bear in mind the relevance or materiality of data to ensure that effort invested in gathering information is proportionate to its importance. Information used to develop eco-efficiency indicators should be of sufficient quality to meet the needs of users, especially with r espect

to tracking performance. But it is not always necessary to have high precision on all of the information. For example, if three out of ten raw materials used in a process constitute ninety percent by volume of the total, the volume precision on those three major materials needs to be high and the volume for the other seven could be estimated without sacrificing much precision in the overall figures. Similarly, if ninety

percent of energy use for a business occurs at one of ten locations, the energy use precision for that one location needs to be high, while energy use for the other nine could be estimated.

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